I was very excited to carve out a little time for a spinning class the other day. Cycling and sweating to fun music with the camaraderie of my gym buddies was just what I needed to beat the stress of the holidays. As I walked in to the cycling room, a very perky, smiley, bleach blonde instructor was beginning to warm up and was chatting with the class. “Ok, everyone, let’s think about all of that holiday food you’ve been eating. Cookies…candy…heavy meals…alcoholic beverages…I am going to work you so hard and we are going to burn those calories off,” she cheered with a smile. “Think about what you ate at that party over the weekend or maybe you even ate something naughty this morning for breakfast,” she continued, “we are going to spin it off!”
As I looked around the room, it was hard to tell if I was alone in my distaste for this kind of “motivation”. While this strategy might work for some, I had to imagine that there were others like me who wanted to be present in the moment and appreciate all the good things I was doing for my cardiovascular system, my brain and my mood by participating in the class. Was I the only one who thought exercise should not be a punishment for eating indulgent foods, but a gift that we give to ourselves everyday?
Aside from her introductory comments, the instructor was actually pretty good. She had fun, upbeat music that she paired nicely with simulated hills, sprints and jumps. She had good energy and was encouraging throughout the hour-long class. I was able to let go of her comments, enjoy my time there and get in a good sweat. However, I’m ﬁnding that days later, my thoughts are still coming back to those initial comments of hers. I realized that earlier in my life, that was how I felt about exercise. In the 90’s, I used to drag myself to aerobic class after aerobic class, hating just about every minute, but convincing myself it was necessary. While I might have gotten a physical workout, I didn’t connect with the practice at all in my mind. When I think about my love of yoga, running and triathlons now, the experience cannot be compared. I feel so grateful to have found workouts where I love every minute, and the effects on my mind, body and spirit last all day.
So if you ﬁnd that the “burn it off” thoughts motivate you, terriﬁc! Anyplace you can ﬁnd inspiration is wonderful. However, if this mentality makes exercise feel like a punishment and takes away its enjoyment, consider changing your thinking. With the new year approaching, you may be starting or altering an exercise regime to improve or maintain your health. Making time for physical activity can be challenging, but when you ﬁnd something that you love, it becomes exponentially easier. Do not choose exercise merely to create a calorie deﬁcit, really seek out something that brings you joy.
If you try a spinning class and hate it, try yoga or Zumba or lifting weights or walking with a friend. Keep searching for that activity that feels the best to you, both mentally and physically. Be kind to yourself and encourage yourself to stick to your new plan. Be proud of the work that your body is doing. Be proud of yourself for trying something new. And if your eating isn’t always perfect, just let it go! Don’t dwell on it the next day at the gym! Every day is a new opportunity to live in the moment and try to make good eating and exercise choices. Carpe Diem!